Boston University Mathematical Finance program
Boston MSMF is a 17-month program offered under Boston School of Management
Reading reviews varying so wildly can be confusing or discouraging to the reader and thus I feel it necessary to provide a detailed and objective review of the program and my experience thus far.
Let's begin with the facilities here at the school. A challenging program such as this one brings with it a great deal of stress and thus good facilities are a big plus to help with studying. The Questrom building certainly qualifies as a fantastic facility. The ample size, Starbucks located in the building, in house Pardee library, study rooms and student lounges provide a atmosphere conducive to productivity and this is useful in that one does not need to leave the building to conduct long study sessions. I will say however, that the building lacks a large communal area for studying. The lobby has a number of seating options but it is too busy in the lobby in my opinion to conduct productive study. I was recently at Harvard's new law school building. The front area of the building is a large study space that incorporates soft lighting, gas fire places, ample sofas, wood paneling, and aesthetic finishes that make for a fantastic study area. While this certainly is not a large concern area when choosing a program, these small things help throughout the semester and thus I want to detail all aspects to you. BU does have a large library and one can find enjoyable study venues there as well.
Next let's discuss classwork. I notice other reviews speak of how difficult the coursework is and how stressful it is and so forth. Let's be clear, you want challenging coursework! I see very little point in attending school and taking on the time and financial commitments it requires for anything less than coursework that pushes your mind to a new plateau. The fundamental difference between undergraduate and graduate studies is that in graduate school, the answer to a problem may come in several forms and is most often not readily available or straightforward. Problems in the professional world cannot be solved by simply reading a page or two out of a textbook. They require perseverance and deeper understanding of the material, that is what graduate school aims to emulate. Understand clearly that taking on very difficult coursework not only benefits you in the short term by improvement your mental capabilities, but also is excellent preparation for the rigors of the financial industry. So when you see comments of difficult coursework, welcome it with open arms!
Continuing with classwork, this year was the first year of the new curriculum. The compressed schedule of 2 classes every 8 weeks has been changed to the normal 4 classes for a full semester. This is great and will allow you more time to soak the concepts in. In previous reviews there are mentions of not enough time to complete tasks or the load is too bearing. I cannot comment on those statements as they were made under the old structure of the curriculum, but I confidently say that under the new structure you have enough time to do well if you manage your time well.
Onto to the professors. Let's begin with Andrew Lyasoff as he has received some undue criticism on this review feed. Lyasoff is one of the best professors you will ever have. I guarantee it. You will struggle to find another professor who knows his field as well as he does and is as committed to your success as he is. He holds office hours twice a week with the mantra 'I will hold office hours as long as you need'. He often held 3 hour sessions on Sunday as well. I challenge one to find a more dedicated professor. Having said that, his coursework is highly theoretical and very challenging. But this is a good thing! He challenges students to grow academically and if you respond positively to this, you will find it a rewarding experience. There is the drawback that if you are not seeking to be a true quant, theoretical work in stochastic methods is unlikely to be seen in your career. Thus the only negative thing I would say of his class is that it lacks practical application in certain areas. But again, if enjoy the field of math finance and want to be challenged, you will enjoy his class thoroughly.
The statistics professor is Eric Jacquier. A previous review mentions his lectures are incoherent. This is false. Simply put, pay attention in class, take notes and ask questions and you will learn plenty in his class. Another mention was of difficulty to understand his accent. Perhaps I have super hearing but I have not once thought he was challenging to understand. Additionally, he is a pleasant person and enjoyable as a professor. Jacquier's tests are challenging so be prepared for that.
Gustavo Schwenkler is the finance professor in the first semester. I do not have too much to say on this course other than it is well organized, Gustavo knows his material well, homework assignments are practical, tests are not easy but follow the coursework. There is perhaps too much focus on options throughout the course. In addition he grade deflates as mentioned in a further paragraph.
Last is the c++ course. This has been taught by the Executive Director A.Namini. Namini has however, accepted a position as a CTO at a hedge fund in Boston and thus will not be teaching the c++ course in the Fall of 2016. I cannot provide any useful information for prospective students for this class as I do not know who will be teaching this class in the Fall. On the class itself however, very useful class and the projects were extremely insightful and I learned a massive amount from working through the projects.
My only complaint on the coursework is that I think the program should be 2 years long. Given the complexity of the work, I believe students would come out the program as stronger candidates if the extra semester was present. I think that schools with a 2 year math finance program have a great advantage over BU in this regard.
Next on my list is to address grade deflation. Grading in my year has been very fair with exception to G.Schwenkler. If individuals who mentioned grade deflation were referring to a graduate school not just handing grades all B or B+ and above, that is not grade deflation. It is important to maintain a reputation with employers that when they see a GPA of 3.5 or above, they know this student really knows his/her stuff. Having said that, it is also incorrect to 'block grade' students. That is, pre-assign a certain number of grades before the class has even begun. Schwenkler's method guarantees that 25% of the class get a b- and only 10 out of almost 100 students get an A. Most graduate schools don't even accept grades below a B, so to grade this way reflects very poorly on the student in an interview or the like.
Next is the pre-requisites list. I think that the list is missing a couple of items. The list should include real analysis, a full semester of computer programming, measure/set theory. If you can do these before the program it will help quite a bit. However, many students have not done these and if you haven't you still have the tools you need to succeed. These extra classes will just make certain concepts easier to absorb the first time around.
Lastly is the admin staff. They are awesome! Whitney is the assistant director and adviser to the MSMF students and she is great. Always willing to help and organizes a lot of fun things for the students to do. The career adviser is Cris Nigro and she is great too. She will be there to help you through the career search process and I have found her advice to be very useful. She also sends out resume books to employers which create opportunities for students. Thus far, of the things I know about, a couple students got interviews within the first 2 months of the program, some got contacted by Goldman Sachs, and other by State Street as a result of her networking. Of course the school does not have the connections that Ivy schools have, but BU alumni are all over Boston and there are many opportunities out there.
So, there you have the scoop. I think this has been a great learning experience and I am happy I attended. If you approach this with the attitude of gleaning as much as you can and making the most of every opportunity, I think you will be too.
I graduated from the Boston University’s Mathematical Finance program in January 2015 having studied Economics in Undergrad.
As an overview:
The program’s duration is 3 semesters. The first was the hardest in terms of the workload and was focused more on building a theoretical background. The courses of the next semesters built on the knowledge that was (should have been) obtained throughout the first and got gradually more applied.
There was a considerable effort from the director, Dr. Namini, to educate us about the different career paths and connect us with industry professionals. He kept an open door policy and students could spend a lot of time on one on one conversations with him discussing about suitable careers. As an example, I asked him about a particular career path and he spend some time explaining me what I would need to know and where to focus in order to be successful. He even gave me some contacts he had from that specific industry so that I can have informational interviews.
The program also tries to utilize its alumni. I personally found my job through the alumni connections.
It is a professional degree. During the third semester all courses were during the evenings giving me the opportunity to work part-time during the mornings.
As for the difficulty of the program, it was VERY difficult. It was the most stressful experience of my life. The moto of the program (you will hear it from the first day) is “If you are sleeping, you are doing something wrong”. I used to be one of the best students in undergrad but in BU MSMF I was average. I personally think that this is a plus for the program because if you are to spend so much money and valuable time (1.5 years in your twenties is quite valuable) you should be pressured to gain as much as possible.
I would recommend this program to anyone who is driven, ambitious and willing to work hard.
I am a recent graduate from Boston University’s Mathematical Finance program.
My background is in industrial engineering. Studying operations research and optimization led me the quantitative finance world.
My class at BU MSMF included around 60 students, and most had an internship during summer and started a full-time position within 3 months upon graduating.
The program consists of three semesters.
The first semester is about learning fundamental math/statistics and having an introduction to quant finance. The 1st semester is divided into 2 parts to fit in different necessary courses, and I personally liked this way of organizing. From the second half of the 1st semester, students are required to use computer programming for their assignments. R is recommended. No course is provided for learning R but C++ course is offered in 2nd semester.
The coursework gets deeper as you move into the 2nd semester. Courses are tougher students have 2 and more projects. Subjects include fixed income, computational finance, C++ and advanced stochastic calculus. Lecture contents and quality are great. Lots of assignments and ridiculously difficult concepts will keep you in school everyday.
Some of the more experienced students and those who get lucky at information interviews get their summer internship offer during the 1st semester. Landing an internship this early is relatively rare, though. Starting from the 1-month winter vacation, students really get started on internship hunting. What is nice about the program is that its alumni network and staff’s efforts are very helpful. Students usually get information about 10-30 job openings through the staff, exclusively working for the program, and the program director. Speaking of the director, Dr. Namini is a valuable asset of the program with his alumni management and corporate networking. His experiences at Wall St. are very beneficial to students.
I also got an internship through alumni, who held information sessions about their company on campus. The Boston area has many opportunities regarding asset management and commercial banking.
Third semester is the full-time job-hunting season. Courses are still intense but don’t require too much. During the 3rd semester all courses are scheduled 6pm - 9pm so students can work part-time (international students can CPT for this).
Some students get full time offers from their internship employers. Like internship opportunities, many offers come from the Boston area thanks to the program’s close alumni network and tight connection with local companies.
I landed a job in a prestigious investment management firm here in Boston, working for the quant analytics team. I am very happy that my position closely relates to research-oriented responsibilities.
Here’s a summary of key facts about BU MSMF:
1. Very nice curriculum (quality, materials, depth, lecturers and the overall structure)
2. STEM OPT extension eligible for international students (29-month OPT will be very helpful, given high demand of H-1B visa applications)
3. Living in Boston is quite fun. Not as crazy as New York, but still a lot of opportunities in the finance industry (If you are a big sports fan, this is the best place to live)
4. The director, faculty and staff really care about the students, their job search and their life in general. They’re very good at fetching jobs too.
5. You need to put extra efforts on computer programming outside of class
6. Coursework is VERY difficult. You will find yourself taking classes with PhD students.
7. Not a very high reputation of the school, especially with Harvard and MIT right across the river.
8. If you are thinking about working in investment banking, Boston is not the best city, but many good asset management/advisory firms can be found here. But still, you can always find a job in New York if you want to work in investment banking.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this program. I had awesome, talented classmates, high-quality courses and many impressive job opportunities I had chances to explore. Also, I feel that the program is continuously improving. The program is carefully listening to the feedbacks from graduates to upgrade its value.
Program is hard and I mean it. Even if you were great in undergrad, you probably won't be here. Mostly theoretical math with a good deal of coding. It's difficult to code since they don't teach it well, and you have to rely on others to do it for you. Coding is a major skill to possess if you want to be a quant, you need to know C++ and R for starters; the more the better. If you are a computational math person, don't come here; this is strictly for theoretical mathematicians. A few people dropped out because of the theoretical nature of everything. Didn't receive internship. Made it difficult for securing full-time employment, but found a job, not to my liking in risk management. I don't know of anyone in my program that became a quant. Most people got into risk management, or asset management, or portfolio management, etc. Only 3 or 4 folks were good enough to go for the prized PhD, which I think is the gateway to be a quant. A MS in math finance is most likely not going to lend you your dream job: a quant.
Great program, very though content. If you go to BU you should prepare to study hard. Also be patient as most of the applicable courses are towards the end of the program. Many people get good positions at good companies, although many have to settle for jobs they don't like a lot. I feel mostly the people that cared about learning got better placed, my guess is that is an effect from being able to speak much more intelligently about finance in an interview.
I feel most of the professors did a great job. They are very accessible and know very well the content of their classes. They also care about students learning well the content of the courses.
Living in Boston is great and good friendships are built during the program. Expect to always have your hands full studying and try to have one or two nights a week to grab a drink with friends.
I would sum up the masters as follows:
First semester: Introduction courses, mostly you will deal with learning stochastics and being introduced to math finance.
Second semester: half and half, still you are learning math tools but finally you are starting to go into applications by studying fixed income and computational methods.
Third semester: applications learning. Some of them are more abstract than the others, but it will build a good mind set. Sadly though many people don't take advantage of the content as they are much more preoccupied of getting a full time offer.
I would recommend this masters. The pros are the professors and the content, if you care about learning be assured that you will learn a lot. The cons would be not the best placements and I would have wished it was more computational.
I just begin my second semester in BU.This program is very difficult and tough!You have to learn hard the whole semester.Based on job placement history,it is not hard to get a job if you can survive.The knowledge you learn here is very useful and important for your career.
what is more,we have career preparation session every week,cris is a very good and helpful lady who teach us how to make a phone interview,30 seconds interview,etc. You can feel that you are not fighting alone,a team back you up!!
Dr.Namini is a very charming man who has a lot of experience in Wall street,he always use analogy to explain us trading and finance knowledge which make us understand better.
Although the program is so hard that gonna to kill me, i feel every penny i paid is totally worthy!
1- Good administrative support
2- International students from everywhere in the world, mostly China though
3- Fast- 3 semesters long only
4- Good career preparation
5- Great city - Boston
1- Rampant cheating, even your homework could be stolen
2- Poor grading, ie grade deflation/poor curves if any
3- Fast, 3 semesters long - so it's very stressful and not much of a graduate experience
4- Extremely competitive - difficult to stand apart from the rest and excel
5- Poor career network of companies
6- Some fairly strange and bad professors
7- Expensive city - Boston
You decide. Does it fit you?
I was a part of this program in 2014. I will try to give an objective review of this program without any personal feelings and give you a glimpse of what to expect.
The program is led under the direction of the Executive Director, Dr. Ahmad Namini. The plus side to him is that he has experience in Wall Street and is helpful in terms of getting you a job and possibly boosting your GPA. He attempts to give a better grade than other professors because all the professors engage in grade deflation. However, Namini only teaches one course, Programming in C++. The problem is he doesn't teach: his entire class is jokes. He can literally joke for 3 hours straight and their is no restraint: racial epithets, sexual innuendos, etc. You feel duped by him. He's an excellent salesman in selling you a program that you will regret joining.
The program is 3 semesters long. The first semester is the worst, and your GPA will be terrible. The first semester is two classes for about 7 weeks, and then two more classes for 7 weeks. It's ultra fast and there is an enormous amount of cheating. The director also doesn't care if you cheat, in fact he told us he doesn't care in the Math Refresher program and not to come to him to complain. Your integrity will be at stake.The class is international, with only a few Americans. The foreigners can't leave once they join, and regret their time at the school. This is how the school rakes in so much money for their program. Most Americans enjoy a scholarship, but usually lose it because of the grade deflation.
Do not attend the Math Refresher program. This is a two-week program that costs around $300 at the time. Namini teaches it, and he only jokes around. You also don't need anything in the refresher program to do well in the program. The benefit of this refresher program is to network with other students and form a group. You will work in groups no matter what, if you don't join this, you may have a little trouble forming a group. But trust me you will find a group even if you are the most socially awkward person, everybody is nice. The TAs are all Chinese The Chinese work with the Chinese, the Indians with the Indians, the Europeans with the Europeans.
You will get a mentor, a second-year student. This is a good thing.
The academic advisor Whitney Jorns is very nice and helpful. The career advisor, Christine Nigro, she is also helpful. Namini is helpful too. There is a good support system to help you succeed. Don't be surprised if Namini offers you cigarettes; he'll smoke with you too. A lot of students take up smoking to ease their stress.
The second and third semesters are normal, ie four or more classes each 14 weeks long. The first semester is highly theoretical, with the 2nd and 3rd semesters being more application based. This program is intense and stressful, I suggest going to another school where the program is longer, maybe 2 years or longer so that you can understand the material well and prepare yourself for future success in your GPA.
You will most likely take Dr. Andrew Lyasoff for Stochastic Calculus unless he is on sabbatical. He is not a very good teacher. Throughout class, he will not answer your questions: he will ignore it some way or another with catch phrases like "It's straightforward, " "It's trivial," "It's obvious." His office hours aren't much help either for most students. He is a nice man, but he simply cannot connect with people on any level. He only talks stochastic calculus and does not have knowledge outside of it. He wrote a book and used us as his gunieau pigs, it's not a good book and you will definitely have to look elsewhere for understanding the material. There is a lot of cheating on his exams too. Bright side: we all had a great time making fun of this guy, and you will, too.
Schwenkler teaches Finance. He is the hot professor all the ladies like and he is organized. His lectures are good. But he will escort you to the bathroom during exams and stand behind you while you urinate to prevent cheating. Cheating really is a major problem here. Will he do this in the future? I don't know.
Jacquier for Statistics is one of the worst: his lectures are completely incoherent. He has an accent and some students find it difficult to understand, I didn't though.Your grade will be terrible in this class. This class is maybe the hardest.
Other professors are better. But you have them towards the end of the program.
I think you will enjoy the international community and also will have a lot of laughs with culture shock and making fun of the professors. It's a fun experience, but don't expect to come out a winner in terms of grades. If you think you want an MBA down the line or a PhD, this is not the place to be. This is a last stop as far as education is concerned for most students. By the way, most quants are PhDs. It is extremely rare to have a Masters degree and be a quant.
Hiring season for internships is December January and February. If you apply before that, you are making a mistake. Don't apply to more than 30 jobs and don't do it outside this 3-month window I gave you above. Some students apply to 50 in the fall, some up to 200 from the fall to February: this is just wasting energy.
You will most likely find an internship. Job placement is good after school ends. But be ready to take a job you don't want: like risk management. You also won't work for a major company like JP Morgan, or some other big bank or hedge fund. The school just does NOT have the connections. Most of you will not be a quant. There is NO career fair for you. Two main companies want you and come to campus: State Street and Charles River Development. There are students who do NOT get jobs, you won't be competitive with grade deflation. I suggest to go to a cheaper school because if you don't get a job then, you will still not lose as much money; also Boston is expensive compared to other US cities in terms of housing and food. Other schools in the northeast like Columbia are rumored to have grade inflation, making you less competitive.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I studied full-time in the program from 2008-2009
My interest in Math led me into Engineering and Computers was what interested me. After my Bachelors in Computer Engineering with a year long project developing application for one of the reputed companies, I was in the quest of applying my knowledge of math and computer to a particular field. With signs of recession coming in around that time, it made me more inquisitive about the reason why all this was happening. I worked with a trader to see how the market functions, researched a bit on genetic algorithms. It was then I realized that I need to get to the basics which led me to BU Math Finance.
Did you get admitted to other programs?
I was admitted to IIT Chicago and NYU Poly.
Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
Konstantinos Kardaras & Jerome DeTemple. My idea was to join a program which was more of Math with a hint of Finance. This suited me perfectly. Also the faculties that I have listed were the best thing that could have happened to this course.
Tell us about the application process at this program
Applications were smooth. Prompt response each and every single time.
Does this program have refresher courses for incoming students.? How useful was it?
There werent any refresher courses then. But we were asked refer to John C Hull and couple more texts. The course structure was good enough for a proper built up. They have revamped it a little bit though.
Tell us about the courses selection in this program. Any special courses you like?
It was a fixed set of classes that we had to take. No choices offered.
Tell us about the quality of teaching
The standard of the course is good. Starts out from basic and then peaks up gradually. There was help available at all times.
Materials used in the program
Lot of standard texts, but personally I liked the way I started referring research papers after talking to professors.
Programming component of the program
Decent amount of programming done for Monte Carlo simulations, Statistical analysis of financial data.
C++ was the main language. Also packages like R. Personally I used Matlab and Stata as well.
A couple of exams were group exams.
The program was going through a few changes. But we got assistance with few career fairs and were kept posted about the companies visiting BU. Apart from this, a third party called EUSA was available to us find internships (CPT).
What do you like about the program?
Starts off with basics, but builds up.
What DON'T you like about the program?
Internships in Summer 2nd half. Also 10 months at a go.
Suggestions for the program to make it better
They have already improvised on few suggestions we gave to change the course structure.
What are your current job status? What are you looking for?
Currently working with a startup in Algorithmic Trading Platform space. I am very much interested to get into Option Pricing, Arbitrage or quant trading side.
Come in with more experience and this course will carve you better.
This review was submitted anonymously